No-thing-ness, he said. Before me was a meditation expert who perfectly described the way I experience meditation. My brain shuts down, and like a computer screen, goes completely black. I am no longer aware of my consciousness. Or time. The darkness is not scary but rather it just is.
Nothingness doesn’t always come when I meditate. When I first started meditating regularly, my mind often raced. But I practiced letting go of thoughts like clouds floating through the sky and compassion for myself – no self-judgment for having those racing thoughts. And slowly, I am finding no-thing-ness faster and more and more frequently. The sensation helps rejuvenate my energy and sharpens my mind.
In high school, I bought a book about Buddhism. I never read it, but always imagined it contained life secrets including meditation. About four years ago, I was going through a particularly rough time in life and a friend suggested I try meditation. I asked, “but how do you do it?” The friend replied, “um, you just do.” Luckily, around the same time, a yoga teacher announced in class that Oprah and Deepak Chopra offer free 21-day meditation challenges. I jumped at the next opportunity.
The 21-day meditation challenges, which are offered a few times a year (and may be purchased year round), create a structure which liberate you to experience meditation on your own, in your own way, on your own time. Each day’s meditation, plus guided encouragement and support, last about 20 minutes.
I practice meditation on my own and in community. But when I really need some introspection, I always come back to the habit-forming 21-day challenges. The themes are always so relevant to what is happening in my life at the time. I love the words of encouragement and affirmations spoken by Oprah. And Deepak’s insight is so incredibly valuable. If you try a meditation challenge, don’t be discouraged by the Sanskrit. If you can’t pronounce some of the mantras, just focus on your breath. The Sanskrit isn’t necessary to get the benefits, and it will come with time.
My favorite way to meditate, however, is in community. Being with other human beings just amplifies the energy and power of the mediation. Nearly a year ago, a friend of mine offered to teach meditation for half hour once a week to my super stressed, overworked coworkers. (We have a job that is half social worker, half lawyer, and lots of vicarious trauma.) At the first class, I didn’t know what to expect having never meditated with others before. The teacher offered us raisins for a lesson in mindfulness – active tasting and eating. For many months, more than ten of us were devoted students and learned so much from her. We were so grateful for everything she taught us. Without our teacher, our meditation community still meets. Youtube videos are a mere shadow of what our teacher provided. But they offer us the ability to practice together.
How do you meditate? Getting into the runner’s zone? Blissing out during yoga? Hiking in the mountains? Staring into the embers of a campfire? Share your stories and favorite ways of meditating below.